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Firefighters Reach Impasse in Contract Negotiations with Seminole

Seminole Fire | Fire Truck | Public Safety

Unresolved issues include wages, overtime and sick leave. A special magistrate will be appointed to conduct a hearing and make recommendations.

SEMINOLE – The Seminole Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 2896 has reached an impasse in the negotiations with Seminole for a contract covering the firefighters and fire lieutenants (who are all also dual certified as EMTs or paramedics) in the city’s fire department.

While tentative agreement has been reached on many of contract items, firefighters said the city and Local 2896 have been unable to resolve the major financial issues at the center of these negotiations such as wages, overtime, sick leave, vacation leave and pension. The current contract expires Sept. 30.

Seminole City Manager Ann Toney-Deal agreed there are many unresolved issues, but that’s because negotiations had not gotten very far. The city, she said, had not had a chance to discuss all issues before the firefighters declared an impasse.

“We are at the beginning of negotiations. They presented a position and have clung to that,” Toney-Deal said. “They decided to go to impasse without negotiating.”

Firefighters said the city has offered a maximum 3 percent wage increase per year; but only those employees who receive nearly perfect scores on their annual evaluations would be eligible for the 3 percent. To offset the limited wage increase offer, the city has proposed a change in how wages and overtime for firefighters are calculated; a proposal that serves as a pay cut for every member covered by the agreement. This change in overtime calculation may erase – or nearly erase – the limited wage increase offered by the city depending on how firefighters use their vacation and other leave throughout the year.

Toney-Deal agreed the city has offered a 3 percent raise but that’s 3 percent per year over a three-year period. At the end of that three years, the compounding effect of the raises would add up. She also agreed that the raise is contingent on performance, but said that should not be an issue.

With the high-caliber employees in Seminole’s fire department, she said, “it is our expectation that almost everyone would receive 3 percent.”

The two sides are also at odds over the portion of the contract that involves management rights. Toney-Deal said firefighters want to take away many of those that have been part of the firefighters’ contract for years.

One such item deals with what happens when there’s a dispute between the city and the fire union. The union, she said, wants disputes to go to binding arbitration. That would eliminate Seminole’s citizen committee, a group of residents who hear the dispute and make a recommendation about a resolution. Not only does the change take away citizen participation, Toney-Deal said, eliminating a volunteer group in favor of a paid arbitration would cost tax money.

Although the city was caught by surprise with the declaration of impasse, Toney-Deal said Seminole stands ready to negotiate.

“We’re more than willing to negotiate in good faith with the contract. It is unfortunate that the bargaining unit is unwilling to do that,” Toney-Deal said. “There’s no question the city council and city administration appreciate the job firefighters do. But both sides have the obligation to negotiate in good faith and the city was, and is, prepared to do that.”

Emergency responses answered by the city of Seminole Fire Department’s firefighters and paramedics have increased 18 percent in the past four years, yet firefighters’ salaries lag as much as 11 percent behind salaries in other Pinellas and Hillsborough area fire departments, firefighters said.

In accordance with Florida law, a Special Magistrate will be selected to conduct a hearing and issue a recommended decision on these outstanding impasse issues.

Photo of Seminole fire truck courtesy of the city of Seminole.

Seminole Firefighters | Government | Impasse | Tampabay News

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Firefighters Reach Impasse in Contract Negotiations with Seminole
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Firefighters Reach Impasse in Contract Negotiations with Seminole
Unresolved issues include wages, overtime and sick leave. A special magistrate will be appointed to conduct a hearing and make recommendations.
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TB Reporter
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